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New partnership gives students global business experience

Florida's economy has always been dependent on the beaches and sunny skies that bring tourists from all over the world. But with seasonal ups and downs and economic uncertainty taking its toll on disposable incomes, Florida businesses have diversified to meet other global demands.

One in five exporters in the U.S. are located in Florida, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and that number continues to grow with the scheduled Panama Canal expansion in 2015. But with businesses diversifying, workers must expand their skill sets as well.

"Florida is saying, 'We want our part,' and Tampa Bay is saying, 'We're in,' " said Donna Davis, an associate professor of marketing at the University of South Florida Muma College of Business. "The state really wants to grow that part of the economy, and one huge piece is talent development."

That's where the new Center for Supply Chain Management & Sustainability at the USF Muma College of Business comes in. The center is the first of its kind in Florida, and will be co-led by Davis, who recently joined USF after heading Texas Tech University's Global Supply Chain Management Program, and Jim Stock, Distinguished University Professor and Frank Harvey Endowed Professor in Marketing.

The center will train both undergraduates and graduates in issues related to supply chain management, reverse logistics, and sustainability -- with the goal of increasing the number of trained professionals entering the workforce. Students will be offered undergraduate and MBA concentrations in supply chain management starting in fall 2014, but a recent partnership with Career Source Tampa Bay gives USF students experience in the international supply chain industry now.

"The Muma College of Business, Department of Marketing, and the Center for Supply Chain Management & Sustainability will work in concert to develop the most competent, managerial workforce in logistics and supply chain management" said Stock, a world-renowned expert in logistics and supply chain management. "Graduates will possess knowledge and skills in various supply chain software, business analytics and big data, and real-world experiences from participating in internships with various companies located in the region."

The internship program will place 10 undergraduates in positions with Tampa Bay companies that either are already trading internationally or plan to begin doing so in the near future. Career Source Tampa Bay, a public-private partnership promoting local economic growth through workforce development, will contribute to the qualified students' salaries, and students will also get course credit for the experience.

"This is a great opportunity for our students to gain global business experience without leaving the Tampa Bay area," said Moez Limayem, dean of the USF Muma College of Business.

The program also aligns with the college's priority of student success.
"This agreement with Career Source Tampa Bay couldn't have come at a better time because this summer, the college is offering a new internship-for-credit course that will be available to business students from all majors. In addition, this internship compliments our new supply chain management concentration with practical experience," said Jackie Nelson, senior director of undergraduate affairs for the Muma College of Business.

Davis is in the process of selecting students for the first incarnation of the project and hopes to grow the program to include 25 students over time. This program is just the first effort for the new center, with plans to provide corporate training and development in addition to education and internship opportunities.

"We're helping with economic development in the Tampa Bay region," Davis said. "Everyone wins."

The program will not only allow student hands-on experience by applying their knowledge, skills, and abilities to the realm of international trade, but will also assist the companies in expanding internationally.

"The internship program with USF will provide needed resources to support the expansion of international trade by businesses in Hillsborough County," said Mark Douglass, Career Source Tampa Bay's chief operating officer. "We are very pleased to partner with the Muma College of Business in this endeavor."

The partnership program was conceived as a proposal by a management master's student, Shannon Wilde. As a graduate assistant in USF World with a concentration in international business, Wilde understood the importance of a global business worldview.

Wilde, who has graduated and is now an intern the U.S. Trade Representative's Office in Washington, D.C., said she came up with the idea after she went to a conference and saw a similar program that The Ohio State University was doing. Businesses in Ohio were able to increase exports by $5 million in just nine weeks.

"I came to USF World and said, 'This is incredible, how can we not do this?'" she said.

Wilde said seeing the program come to fruition is a dream come true.

"At Career Source Tampa Bay, they know that exporting creates jobs," she said. "This really just helps everybody in the community, and I love the fact that we're helping students as well because this is a whole new way to learn. I wish I could have participated in it."